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Dec 22 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

December 18, 2016 – Luke 2:25-35

A Seasoned Christmas

And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to carry out for Him the custom of the Law, then he took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said,

“Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace,
According to Your word;
For my eyes have seen Your salvation,
Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
A light of revelation to the Gentiles,
And the glory of Your people Israel.”

And His father and mother were amazed at the things which were being said about Him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed–and a sword will pierce even your own soul–to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” Luke 2:25-35

Intro: Christmas is not only a day, it is a season

It is the most important season for America’s economy
– but we’re already well aware of that
• it starts too soon and is crammed with too much
– for Mary, Christmas season was kicked off when the angel approached her
• in both Hebrew and Greek “angel” and “messenger” are the same word
• angel messengers arrive straight from the presence of God

Normally, when encountering humans, the angel’s first word is, Do not be afraid
– how Gabriel began with Zacharias who was troubled by his presence (Lk. 1:13)
• and the same with the angel who appeared to the shepherds when they were terribly frightened (Lk. 2:10)
◦ it seems that with Mary, Gabriel forgot to deliver his opening line
• I don’t think it is a misreading to sense Gabriel’s excitement
◦ Gabriel blurted out what he knew about Mary when he saw her:
favored one – she was chosen for something great
the Lord is with you – she would not fail; could not fail
(in scripture, this second statement means everything will be okay)
– perhaps, when he saw her reaction to him, he remembered the “Don’t be afraid” part
Do not be afraid – and for second time he said her name
◦ Mary was known to the angels in heaven
• what he did not say was, “Be terrified, for your destiny is upon you”
◦ the plans she had for coming years had been scrapped
◦ all she can do now was to wake up each morning and discover where God’s plan would take her

That one Christmas changed everything for Mary

The beginning of Joseph’s Christmas season was more complicated
– he did not first learn about Mary’s destiny from angels
• I think we sometimes read Bible in fairytale mode
◦ we don’t stop to think about its real-life impact on these people
• Joseph did not instantly think, “It’s a miracle!”
◦ he assumed the worst – still, he was a good man
◦ he planned a secret divorce rather than expose her to public shame
– the Scriptures do not explore whatever inner anguish he felt
• while considering this course, angel came
◦ he too was told not to be afraid – and specifically, to take Mary as his wife
◦ an angel explained to Joseph that the Child in her was of the Holy Spirit (Mt. 1:20)
• Matthew adds that this was a fulfillment of prophecy: Emmanuel, “God with us” (Mt. 1:22-23)
◦ so, whereas Mary was told, the Lord is with you
◦ we learn from Matthew that in Jesus, the Lord is with us all

The way Jesus enters any human life works the same for us as Mary and Joseph
– not by our effort or commitment

And looking at them Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Mt. 19:26)

– God’s Spirit gives birth to a new life within us
• God gives that new life a name: Jesus; Emmanuel
◦ and he tells us not to be afraid
◦ don’t be afraid to believe, to trust, to risk, to obey
• nothing can halt God’s work in us faster than fear
◦ I learned something valuable for a conversation I overheard
A troubled Christian: “But I feel like I’m lying to myself about these things”
A wise spiritual director: “You’re not. It’s the feeling that is the lie”

The shepherd’s Christmas season also began with an angel
– they did not worry about accommodations as they settled in for the evening
• there was never room for them in the inn
◦ they were used to sleeping under the stars
• I see them, circled around fire, swapping stories
◦ the dark sky was suddenly shattered by light
– when we notice a sudden or unusual bright light,
• it doesn’t strike us as eerie or supernatural
◦ we merely wonder what is causing it
• but in a world without street lights or artificial light,
◦ the source of a brilliant light would be unknown
◦ as it poured over them, a shudder ran through their bodies

Like them, King David belonged to village of Bethlehem
– and like them, David had been a shepherd
• no doubt he spent nights in the open field
◦ God never forgot
◦ Israel’s first king, a tyrant; the people needed a shepherd

(God to David) I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, to be ruler over My people Israel (2 Sam. 7:8)
He also chose David His servant
And took him from the sheepfolds;

From the care of the ewes with suckling lambs He brought him
To shepherd Jacob His people,
And Israel His inheritance.
So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart,
And guided them with his skillful hands. (Psa. 78:70-72)

• now God returns to Bethlehem and its shepherds, to tell them:

. . . today, in the city of David, there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord (Lk. 2:11)

– these shepherds who never received favored attention
• because they were not home at night to protect family – they were dishonored
◦ grazing their flocks on others’ property – they were considered thieves
• God remembered them and sent them a Savior
◦ this is the divine love that will characterize Jesus’ life and ministry
◦ before his hands are stretched out on cross, they were extended to the outcasts and lowlifes

The old man Simeon who lived in Jerusalem had a long Christmas season
– at some point, was promised, he would see the Messiah before he died
• the same Holy Spirit that revealed this word,
◦ told him one morning to get up and go to the temple
• that same day, Mary and Joseph came from Bethlehem
◦ there was a purification ritual she had to observe
◦ and there was a presentation ceremony to perform for Jesus
– I suppose it seemed natural to let the old man take baby from their arms
• the young parents were stunned by the praise that came from Simeon’s lips
◦ and he had a special word for Mary
• perhaps he read the maternal devotion in her eyes
◦ saw her attachment to Jesus – she would always care
◦ but loving Jesus would break her heart

Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed–and a sword will pierce even your own soul–to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed (Lk. 2:34)

– this is an unusual reference to long blade sword; it appears only here in Luke’s writings
• does Mary now wonder, Is this what I said “Yes” to?
◦ will her destiny be fulfilled at sharp point of a sword?
• not, the sword is not her destiny, but its cost
◦ there is always a cost of going forward with Jesus
◦ this is something he tells us to factor into our commitment (Lk. 14:28-33)

Conc: Finally, there was the Christmas season of the Magi

What did Mary and Joseph think of these foreigners? These outsiders?
– What are you doing here? How did you find us?
• Why did you find us?
• You are not of Israel. You don’t have our Scriptures
◦ You can’t know our God
◦ You can’t find him by reading planets and stars
– we believers may have Jesus, but we do not have him exclusively
• we share him with the world
◦ and though we aren’t given to astrology,
◦ we can listen to those who are and perhaps learn how God speaks to them in own language and culture

We are told Magi returned to their own country another way (Mt. 2:12)
– I realize that I’m taking preacher license here
• but one true sign that someone has encountered Jesus
◦ is that they leave different from what they were when they came

What if we wake up to our Christmas season?
What if we start asking, “How is God bringing Jesus to me this year?”
And just as important, “How is God bringing me to Jesus?”

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